Witnessing A Milestone

Today is my Mother’s birthday.  She is 92.  She shared her birthdate with her father who was born in 1895.  At times like these I like to think of all they both witnessed during their lives, the changes in the world and personally.

Norma’s 1st Birthday
My grandfather’s family were very close.  Their father worked for the Consolidated Coal as the bookkeeper.  They moved a few times to different mining towns in Western Pennsylvania.  While his older brothers went to college, my grandfather joined the Army and fought in WWI in France.  He was very proud of his service.  When he returned to civilian life, he took a correspondence course and became a draftsman and civil surveyor.  He worked as a surveyor for the highway department and for the mines all his life.  In his eighties, he taught drafting for a local engineering firm.

Grandfather at Camp Devan in 1918


Only recently did I learn that she was named Norma by my Grandfather because he fell in love with Normandy while he was stationed there in WWI.  My Mother was the second of four children.  She and her brother Bud were close in age and got along very well.  When he went to WWII and became a pilot, he named his plane after my Mom–the Nordy.  Looking back on it, my Mom has never backed down from a fight maybe that’s why he named his P-47 for her.

The P-47 Nordy
My Mom became a nurse, took a job and moved to the little town where she would live for the next 50+ years.  There, one day, my Dad spied her walking past his Grandmother’s house.  Two months later they were engaged and two months after that they were married.  My brothers came along in quick succession.  I was a later arrival.  My parents eventually sold their house and moved to Florida.   Dad died five years ago.  My Mom misses him immensely.  Tonight, the family will gather for dinner and celebration and some recounting of what she and Grandfather  witnessed.

It has been 121 years since my Grandfather’s birth.  In 1895, the first movie was shown by Lumiere.  Duryea patented the first gas auto.  The first Pro Football game took place in nearby Latrobe, PA.  The first US Golf Open was contested and the first cartoon appeared in the newspapers.  And, Utah accepted women’s suffrage.

In 1924, the song Happy Birthday was written.  The American Indian was granted citizenship.  Hitler was freed from jail.  Judy Garland made her professional debut at age 2 1/2.  I’m going to ask her what stands out in her memory as the greatest events she has witnessed.

More to come…

So tonight I asked my Mom what did she witness that stood out in her memory. First was when the local jeweler was murdered in his home and the police walked the murderer down the alley past all the neighbors and local kids as he recounted his robbery and murder.  Second, was when the neighbor’s  barn/garage burned and they were afraid it would spread to their house. 

Boy was I wrong!  No war, not a moon shot, not a woman running for president!  For Norma, witness is first hand.


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